Saturday, 29 April 2017

Groundhog Day

I know this is the coast and we can expect grey skies and a bit of rain most days, but I'm starting to feel like our local show series is set in some ultra soggy alternate universe. It rains, HARD. Every single time. All day long.

You can also be guaranteed we'll roll in "late" (I will take full responsibility, but at this point its kind of a fact of life given our hauling arrangements and the unpredictable show schedule. I've given up, no matter when we roll in - 8am or noon or anywhere in between, my ride is apparently imminent.)

Essentially, you can be sure we'll arrive, be instantly soaked and miserable, and have someone shouting that you're either due in the ring NOW, or due any minute. I'm 99% sure there is some history/drama between two key people at these shows, but I digress. Let's just say sometimes things are made unnecessarily complicated for the innocent.

And so, we had an OK day. It was cold, it was wet, but Midge jumped around great. I obviously didn't get to warm up or learn the course, and went off course pretty quickly in our first round. So, we did a second unjudged round and got it right, and then had to call it a day because doing a schooling round means you can't go back in the ring ever again,  or something like that ;)

So,  why do I continue to attend these shows? For someone as anxious about showing as myself, they're basically an anxiety dream come true. Super late, and no time to warm up or learn the course? Check. Passive aggressive people? Check. (Today's gem (as I worried about not knowing the course) On the radio to the judge: "We have a member of the entitled generation needing more time before she goes in" To me:"Your pony doesn't look fit enough to jump a full course anyway") Crazy weather blowing the jumps and numbers ensure you're forever lost, LOL. Check. Even the quick look I did get at the course diagram confirmed alternate reality status...the original numbers and jumps were mostly crossed out and the edits illegible.

Now if she had said "and I hear you write a blog with very little media of your pony or yourself. You're failing there!" I might have been sad, because,  truth.

This was actually super good for me, because it's all the stuff I worry about. People judging me negatively, not knowing what I'm doing, being late...probably my top three stupid things to worry about. And guess what? In the real world it's fine. I still don't like the lady at the gate, and I also still don't care what she thinks of me or Bridget. In real life, random people's opinions don't mean a lot to me. Being late means I either miss the class or don't have time to prep. News flash, there's always another class, and if not, the world won't end because an adult ammy missed a 2'6" jumper classes at a local show last weekend :). As for not knowing the course, oh well, but was still actually sort of a good made me look around and be in the moment, and think things through. A little bit of under preparedness might serve me well in the future.
More sleepy Midge last weekend. I had left G in charge of waking her up, but you can see how well that went.

The other reasons I continue to go is that the cost is really reasonable,  it's just a short haul up the road, and most importantly,  someone needs to test rain jackets! Today's victims: a Kerrits rain shelter barn jacket, and an Asmar City Jacket. To give Asmar their due, they never claimed their coats were waterproof, only water resistant. Kerrits outperformed them marginally, but I was soaked through after a couple of hours in each. One day I'll find the perfect alternate universe soggy horse show coat...but it wasn't today.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Fitness Week 5

This week was a bit all over the place. I caught some kind of death plague, so haven't actually ridden since last Saturday. Never fear, though, Bridget still got things done!

I'm going to have to post some before and after pics. I did opt for the Thyroxine last month and it's helped her loose almost all the excess weight and given her a ton more energy. I'm still on the fence about long term usage on a not clinically metabolic pony, but as a way to jump start weight loss it worked great. The vet thought it was the lesser of the two evils as far as her remaining super overweight, and I have to say now I agree. There was no progress being made with exercise and diet alone since she was just struggling too much with the weight to really work even a moderate amount, and was getting pretty sour about working - it was too hard! The grazing muzzle and hay net thing with this pony simply didn't cut the intake enough. We were also ending up locking her in overnight without food and still seeing minimal progress, only a miserable pony. Fingers crossed we can wean her off it, keep up the strict diet and intense fitness routine, and have her hold her current weight.

Saturday: XC/Pace Clinic. Covered 1.5 km at 350m/min for the pace clinic. (With a short break when I got bucked off lol). Further 2 hours of XC clinic, spent either at walk or cantering around jumping things. Heavy emphasis on jumping/cantering up and down steep terrain. Fitness must be much improved because Midge did all that and did not even think about running out of gas.

Sunday: I was sick, but Midge still got out for 1.5 hrs of XC clinic. Less active than previous day...lots of walking around, then cantering single jumps one at a time. Report was she felt tired to warm up, then gained momentum as the lesson went on. This day sucked, because our 6 hour trip home took 12. I'm counting that as fitness because 12 hours standing in a trailer has to be hard!

Monday: Midge got a very well deserved day off.

Tuesday; Kid's vaulting class. About half hr of cantering in side reins, and another half hr walking in side reins.

Wednesday: Still sick, so cancelled dressage lesson. But all was not lost, Midge got a trainer ride and a dressage workout. Report was it was "the best ride ever!"

Thursday: Still death plagued. Midge got another day off.

Friday: Going to do a light neighbourhood hack. About an hour of mostly walking.

Upcoming: Local show Saturday (Yay for cheap entries and 20min trailer rides!). Entered the 2'3" and 2'6" jumpers, hopefully keeping it fun and easy. Jump lesson on Sunday, dressage lesson Monday.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Scattered/Deep Thoughts

There was a Day 3 of the clinic, but of course by then I was really sick and without an operational truck. We were also outside any service area for help - so I needed to deal with things and find a ride to the nearest city to buy a truck battery. Hence, I was sick, stressed, tired and grumpy and did not ride.

Truck required to get us home on this mountain highway.

The teen who exercises Bridget for me once a week was having her own version of Worst Weekend and was needing to give her lovely Q mare the remainder of the weekend off. That means we were left with one healthy rider and one sassy pony. And so we sent them off for a lesson together!

Wake up Midge! While it sucks that my devices ended up with dead batteries I did hear the kids got some actual action shots I might be able to convince them to send me. It's kind of funny the 6 pictures I have to remember the weekend by are all of Bridget sleeping.

The lesson consisted of a bunch of single xc fences, logs mostly, and was pretty boring and uneventful to be honest. I felt bad for favorite teen - she'd been looking forward to Training level on Q mare and instead did pre-entry with Bridget who reverted back to her lazy self. At least fave teen is a Bridget fan and claims to have had fun anyway :) They did look adorable together.  Also on the plus side, boring with horses is always an improvement over wild and crazy!

So, not the best finish to not the best clinic.

Moving forward...some deep thoughts. I'm still feeling pretty scattered. Our long weekend away didn't leave me as inspired and motivated as I would have liked.

Remember these Deep Thoughts? Or am I giving my age away?

My "meh" attitude this winter has spilled over into my rides the past few months. I ride almost daily, and it's still fun because it's Bridget and I like her, but the real drive to be better as an all around rider and to learn more has sort of receded. I like learning new things, but I'm tired and don't fight as much for it as I used to. I'm still feeling more than a bit directionless.

The big elephant in the room and something I thought about a lot this weekend is that the bigger height stuff for Bridget on XC makes me worried. Not for me, but for her...I'm starting to ponder the risk of potentially misjudging a solid obstacle and hurting her, and I'd never forgive myself if that happened. I love the sport, but I think there's a difference to consider between the horses out there running around and attacking the course because they love it and live to gallop and jump all the things, and Bridget, who runs around out there mostly because I ask her to.

Ginger, however, lives for XC and had a fantastic weekend. Also, here's what a welsh D looks like with their feathers clipped and mane roached.  I like it on her!

I can see us doing some combined tests in the future, but more and more I'm kind of in a weird head space eventing wise with the pony.  There should be a new division...all the "fun" stadium and xc questions and dressage tests of the upper levels, but with like 2'6" fences for those of us with not so scopey ponies. Maybe a mini jumper derby course is what I'm wishing for? I don't know. I want to ride dressage tests with lead changes and lateral work, but I still want to gallop around and jump into water and through tricky related distances too!

For now, we've signed up for a couple of jumper classes at the local show this weekend, and have some dressage lessons on the horizon. We'll keep to our summer eventing schedule, but leave the level at Pre-Entry (2'6"ish height, I think). I'll worry about bigger picture plans come Fall. Seems a good compromise, yes?
Rest up, little pony. We're not done yet!

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Clinic Day 2

I was sore, and a bit nervous for day 2. I had waffled a bit about speaking up about my dissatisfaction with Day 1, but apparently my coach had watched part of my previous lesson the day before and did an intervention and asked for me to be in a different group. I had been told the groups were being changed around and I was for sure going to be challenged. I said to G, "How politely do you think she asked? Should I be worried I am now the problem complainer person who's going to get "schooled"?;)"

First off though, I got up early for pace clinic. And again, Midge way over excited once we started. She was great for our first go, but was gradually getting more energetic and inattentive, and was way silly for the second round...and bucked me off. Again. How embarrassing to not be able to stay on just cantering around a field with no jumps! I got back on and did a third round, and didn't die. My barn mates were all in the same boat with crazy excited horses, so it was quite funny when the coach asked if we wanted to switch to the second track and add in some jumps and bigger terrain. We all sort of looked at each other and were all like "NOPE,  we're good!", and started laughing. Sometimes you just don't want to tempt fate :)

Day 2 was pretty crazy in general for rider falls and loose's always bad there being one of the first outings of the spring, but the cool weather and our late spring made it worse this year I think. Add in the fact the stabling and the horses buddies are almost within view, plus how they all feed off each others energy and things were...interesting.  There was a lot of crazy antics and impressive riding on display. G officially decided that we're all nuts and that he's never riding, and I can't say I blame him.

In our lesson, the group had been switched up. Instead of the 5 riders we'd started with, we were left with myself and the little girl on the world's most adorable pony, plus added in an upper level rider on a green horse.

As promised, we immediately went out into the field.

Our lesson was a lot of fun. We schooled a bunch of logs of assorted heights, then moved on to more terrain type questions, because I had mentioned steep downhill jumps and drops are the one thing I feel uncomfortable with. Not necessarily something we need to worry about at the lower levels, but better to address it now than later!

There's one pretty steep descent in particular that I chickened out at last year. We pretty much walked off the little bank at the top, then trotted down the hill every time. This year though, Midge was on fire and I sucked it up until we were cantering off the drop and continuing on down the hill with minimal worries. Although pony was still feeling far too good and bolted a couple of times on landing, the steep uphill coming out slowed her down enough to stop her before it got too wild.
Trotting it very defensively last year. This year we were flying off the middle log! No media though. Blame the kids :)

We continued on to schooling banks in and out of water, then ditches, but didn't linger there since none of the horses had any problems. We finished with a little course going up and down another hilly area of the property. The slope would be similar to what is pictured above, with a large log placed midway down and some smaller one coming back out at the top. This was the scene of another Midge crime, in which we jumped the log going down beautifully, but then a few strides later, she thought a rodeo was in order and eventually popped me out of the tack, although at least this time I landed on my feet. That makes 3 falls in two days! Bad pony has figured out bucking on a downhill is a good formula for getting me off! I got back on, and the rodeos continued, so I got an extra lesson in riding out bucks...this particular clinican advises sitting deep, shoulders back, and keeping the horse's head up. Opposite to what my understanding of what my current coach teaches, and I think more effective for me and my hands which refuse to slip the reins in an emergency. I won, but my shoulders still protest...pony heads are heavy, especially downhill. We finished with a couple of nice rounds on our mini course.

Being a bad ass event pony is exhausting! This was the scene I found every single morning.

While I was hoping to school more than just logs and felt we were challenged less than last year, if I had to choose between schooling higher or more complex jumps or more difficult terrain, I'd go with schooling and being confident at speed over all the terrain type questions again. It was super helpful for those of us who don't have a ton of open space and are limited to mostly walk/trot on the trails. Also, lets be honest, learning to ride Midge's naughty pony antics in all situations may prove handy one day as well :)

Our little group felt kind of random, but it was so small it worked...we all got time to work on what we needed and were even able to all share some of the exercises. The green horse was way impressive and talented, but a baby and prone to shenanigans, so his rider wisely kept it "quiet and boring" with Bridget height stuff and a slow pace. The tiny pony was awesome and the clinician was creative with providing mini options, and the brave little team was even game for a couple of the horse sized ones. Pony power!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Clinic Day 1

Ever have one of those weekends where it seems like the world is against you? That would be the feeling I'm left with after this weekend's trip. 2 hour traffic jam? Check. Missed ferries? Yep. Horse missing shoe at last minute? Yes. Cold and rain each night of (tent) camping? Check. Dead battery on truck, unable to be boosted? (We left it unlocked at the campsite and the barn kids plugged in for lights and used our handy usb plug in to charge all their devices before we noticed...) Yep. Middle of nowhere with no roadside assistance? Yes. Freak snow in the mountain passes? Why not. I even caught a wicked cold to add to the fun. I'll spare you all the miserable details - we're home, everyone is fine, G didn't divorce me for taking him on the worst trip ever. We obviously didn't get a ton of pictures, since a dead truck battery meant no charging of phones or cameras. This makes me very sad, but there is a possibility the kids took some pics with their fully charged devices ;) Let's get to the riding part - which was more fun, but also a bit of a struggle.

When we arrived Thursday night I tacked Midge up and went for a quick hack around the grounds. The other horses were pretty wild and needed to stay in the ring, but Midge was a good girl so got to go splash in one of the water jumps and wander about the fields.  It's a huge place, but sadly the footing in much of it was not the best this year - the unrelenting wet of the coast has wet has apparently reached even the near desert of the interior of the province.
Still a beautiful place, just a bit grey and mucky.
Self explanatory

Midge being Midge, she settled into her little pole corral, ate her dinner, and made not a peep all night. I had an early morning lesson time, and Midge was so chill I needed help convincing her to get out of bed :)
Not that into it

Our lesson group was interesting. I had done the intro clinic last year, so signed up for starter/pre entry (I think that equates to Beginner Novice in the US). Since the clicicians do tend to have you school stuff above the level you signed up for, I was a little worried when I saw I'd been added to an Entry (Novice-ish) group, but I figured I would have to be brave and that it would be a good learning opportunity.

On the actual day, it seemed like our group was really inexperienced and struggling. We didn't actually get out of the arena, and I admit to being a little the hour and a half ride, Midge and I did maybe 10-15 min of warmup, and maybe another 15 of running through various jump exercises. The rest was standing around waiting and watching others work through stuff. I probably sound like a bad person, because obviously we've all been that person in the lesson and the instructor really had no choice but to focus on them for safety reasons. BUT I paid a lot of money and drove a long way for xc schooling, so I was disappointed.
 This WAS a very tricky exercise tho...not a lot of room for mistakes and requiring a very handy horse (or a not so handy pony, whichever;) The clinician used this as a starting point for all the levels...a great test of accuracy, steering and a stop and go button.

Luckily, I had scheduled our pace clinic directly after so we still had a chance to get out for a gallop. Midge, having used no energy in the previous 90 minutes, suddenly woke up, realized she was outside the arena, and went a little wild.  About halfway through our first lap, she randomly sucked back, I leaned forward and kicked...and she took offense, got her head down, bucked a few times, and bolted. And so I fell off. HARD. It hurt. I got back on, went two more times with some minor antics, and had some fun. Midge started to find a bit of a rhythm and was actually pulling most of the way. Fun pony, although naughty.

I'll end here with two separate questions I'd love to hear your thoughts on:

1. What do you do if you don't feel your clinic or lesson group is a good fit? Say something? Trust their judgement and just hope it's an off day?

2. Riding silly antics. I've been told to slip the reins to help avoid being pulled out of a secure position. Then kick forward. "They can't play if they're moving forward fast enough" I've also been told to sit deep, stay tall and strong, and no matter what, keep the horse's head up. The problem I'm having with option 1 is that most athletic horses are perfectly capable of continuing the silliness at speed. With option 2, an incredible amount of upper body strength is needed...particularly if your pony enjoys letting loose going down hills ;) What's your approach?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Nothing To See Here

I took a 4 day time out over the long weekend, and did absolutely nothing. It was amazing, and much needed!

My lounging and accompanying Netflix marathon were interrupted with an email from the barn - the schedule for our upcoming XC clinic weekend. Cool - except one small problem. WHY WAS I LISTED AS TAKING A TRAILER AND DRIVING HORSES? Cue panic, because the last time I trailered anything was about 10 years ago in a previous work life and there were no live animals involved. I had offered the use of my truck, but never offered to drive, surely this was a misunderstanding?
Random pics from last year's clinic

"It's OK, we'll give you and Barnmate A a Trailering 101 recap and you can help each other. It will be fine, we're all going in a convoy and we'll all help!"

I actually would have been OK with this if it was a local haul, but it's not. I get that with the entire barn (12 or so of 'our' horses plus a few more who normally trailer in to our barn for lessons)going we're running low on trailer space and drivers. I like to help out. I have a truck. BUT, it's a ferry ride, driving through the city, and then navigating many miles of mountain highway. About a 6 hour journey.

I knew I COULD technically do it, but the idea was keeping me up at night - I really, really would prefer to ease back into things in a less challenging way. Barnmate A is awesome, but this would be her first non local haul as well. I'm sure we could get it done together, but I just didn't feel that great about it.
Ginger and Bridget being bookends

I didn't mention my worries to G and tried to portray confidence. He was scheduled to work this weekend and I didn't want him worrying about me.  So, you can imagine how happy I was when he traded shifts without asking so that he could come along and drive with us. Most Supportive Partner Ever, Partner Least Trusting in Spouse's Driving Abilities, or Partner Most Concerned About Spouse Trashing The Truck? We'll go with the first option:) I'm still a little worried, but feeling much more confident knowing G can drive if needed.

So, on that note, let's add to my 2017 goals... to confidently drive the small trailer through the city!

T Minus 44 hours until departure!
Our reward will hopefully be sunshine and lots of fun!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Fitness Week 4, and So Busy!

I've been following everyone's adventures and meaning to respond to comments, but this week has just been insane as far as allowing me any down time. I appreciate the support, stories, and saddle suggestions immensely, thank you! This week I took a couple of extra barn shifts to allow for future absences, and my real job has been crazy too. I also haven't seen G in a month, so am escaping for the upcoming weekend for a trip home. with all that being said, Bridget still got boot camp!

I'm not a total meanie, she does get to stop for a treat before we head home

Friday: Jump school. She was forward and fun, and our rematch with the corner posed no issues.

Actual corner. Not tall, but wider and more open than B has seen before

Saturday: Spooky, amped up pony. I gave up on dressage and hit the trails for a fitness ride. 30 min high intensity with lots of hillwork, all in either trot or canter, remaining half downhill and at a collected walk..

Sunday: Saddle fitting to destroy the soul. We must have tried 10 saddles, none worked. Potential that a County Sensation in a wide tree could work for us, bu sadly that's not in the budget quite yet. Also, discovered the tree on the Stubben I had for sale is mysteriously twisted. The only culprit I can think of was our random misadventure this winter when B tried rearing for the first (and only) time and lost her footing and fell. If that's the case, and the saddle took that much of an impact, then I guess I just need to be grateful I wasn't hurt more than I was. Still, sucking up that loss adds another dent in my current budget. Fitness wise, B had a pretty light day, walking and trotting and standing as a saddle model.
Fresh grass, so tempting when you're on a diet

Monday: Dressage lesson. A tough one, both B and I got schooled. Lots of lateral work in trot and canter, minimal walking. 60min. While some good things happened, it was one of those rides where the rewards seemed small given the vast amount of effort put in.

Tuesday: Vaulting. Canter in side reins while tiny kids jump about.

Wednesday: My ride on Q took a lot longer with many more detours than previously planned for. Baby horses need to learn not to rush home, even when the weather is windy and scary. So, B got a day off.

Q looking all sweet and innocent ;)
Thursday. Trainer ride. Dressage. Again, all the canter transitions, plus introducing half pass in trot.

Friday: Q's owner and my favorite barn rat is going to jump school B. Also, farrier appt.

Weekend: B gets one of the days off while I'm away, the other will be a 1 hour hack.

Looking forward: Lessons Monday and Wednesday, leaving for eventing camp Thursday. XC clinics Fri, Sat, Sun in the interior of the province.